Monday, January 16, 2012

Let's Watch the Wings and the Sabres!

We have some Old Business to tidy up before they drop the puck here tonight at the Joe Louis Arena where the Detroit Red Wings will try to do something no Red Wings team has ever done before: win 15 straight home games and it concerns the game here Saturday in which the Wings tied (with an asterisk) their team record  for Most Consecutive Wins at Home by beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime.  We say "with as asterisk" as had the game been played in 1965, which is when the Wings set the record they tonight seek to break, the game would have ended in a 2-2 tie--no OT, no shootouts in '65, of course--and thus the win streak would have ended.

That was some kind of a game here the afternoon before last. Detroit outshot Chicago 21-4 in the first period and led 2-0.  Then the Blackhawks roared back, outshooting Detroit 16-5 in the third period and getting the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation.  That was it for their charge however, as the Wings outshot the Blackhawks 9-0 in overtime, eventually getting the game-winner from Todd Bertuzzi a mere 39-seconds before a shootout would have been declared.

Some notes (and this is the Old Business to which we refer) on what is turning out to be quite a season series between these two Orginal Sixers. It marked the second straight time the Wings had beaten Chicago in overtime this season.  And get this: all three Chicago-Detroit games have ended with the final score 3-2.  Detroit is 2-1-0 in the games (4 pts) and Chicago is 1-0-2 (4 pts).  The Wings have outscored  Chicago 8-7 in the season series.

That's about as close as close can be.  Except for this: the standings in the Western Conference right now show the top 8 teams--the teams which would qualify for the playoffs, that is--separated by 9 points.  Detroit, fifth, is only three points out of first, and only six points out of 8th.

So, tonight, here come the Buffalo Sabres, a game under .500 at 19-20-5 and on the outside looking in playoff-wise right now.  Ryan Miller--their astoundingly good young goalie, is back in the lineup tonight after missing his 8th game of the season due to concussion symptoms Saturday night.

7:47 1-0, Detroit as deep in the Buffalo zone Juri Hudler stole it and Henrik Zetterberg buried it.  It was his 9th of the season.  Zetterberg was alone below the hashmarks moving from Miller's left to right and he beat him high on the long side.  The shot may have been re-directed off the stick of a Sabres defenseman, but that was not immediately clear, even on replay.

8:03  Time to Feel Old (Part One): Ryan Miller, Buffalo goalie, and Drew Miller, Red Wings foreward, are brothers.  Their dad is either Kevin, Kelly or Kip Miller.  I'm not sure and it's strangely not important in the instant discussion.  What is important is the fact that each of those older Millers, Kevin, Kelly and Kip, played on a team for which I was the play-by-play broadcaster at one time or another.  So, I am now watching the sons of a player who was already way younger than I when that player and I were members of the same traveling party to some of the finest non-NHL cities all across North America.  And there is this weird curiosity.  I caught a puck at an NHL game about 20 years ago.  The player who shot it into the crowd?  Kip Miller.  Does this mean anything?

8:13  They really ought to do something, anything, about that Pavel Datsyuk.  Like declare him illegal, or something.  He just hit Johan Franzen with a blind, 50-foot backhand pass that sent Franzen in alone from the center ice red line and you know the rest.  It was goal #18 for Franzen and Bertuzzi also got an assist, which sort of ruined the beauty of the play because really it was Datsyuk, and Datsyuk alone who did it at 18:11.  He may be the best all-round player I have ever seen in person and I'll tell you what, I've seen some pretty good players with my own eyes: Howe, Orr, Beliveau, Gretzky, etc...

8:15  At 19:43, Nicklas Lidstrom makes it 3-0, Detroit; charging the net and banging a rebound past the helpless Miller who now skates off, disconsolate.  Franzen and Bertuzzi had the assists on Lidstrom's 9th.  Shots on goal are even at 11, but that is the only thing about this game which is even right now.  AFTER ONE: DETROIT 3, BUFFALO 0.

8:29 Time to Feel Old (Part Two):  So, I've been playing hockey for almost two years now with an torn left postibular (sic) tendon and I am not going to lie to you, it has not been easy.  What ever it is that that tendon is supposed to do, it can't do because it is no longer there and because it is no longer there I cannot keep my left skate blade in proper attitude (perpendicular) relative to the ice surface.  I can barely stand.  I cannot execute a slide step.  I can hardly go side-to-side at all.  It used to be that I could move two meters from a standing stop to a spot I'd picked out on the ice in the time it takes to say, "move two meters."  Now, I just sort of standing there longingly, remembering the good old days when  my bodies wish was my command, essentially.  I was fitted for a brace a week ago which I was told would, if not completely correct, would at least enable me to regain a good deal of mobility out there and, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited about it.  I went it to try it on today, ready to go for tomorrow's skate, and they couldn't get the thing inside my skate.  The demo I tried on last week fit just fine, but the model they made for me from a case of my lower leg and foot did not.  So, I am back at square one, and that is a square I don't not want to be, in.  Or something.   Tomorrow we'll tape it up again and later we'll try something else.  Oh, and it's 4-0, Detroit.  Bertuzzi with a beauty spin-o-rama backhand early in the second.  And, oh, it's 5-0, Detroit.  Darren Helm is in alone to score on a feed from the Miller brother who plays for Detroit and it is that goal which drives the Miller brother who plays for the Sabres from the game after facing all of 13 shots, only two in the second period.  The two Detroit goals come 13 seconds apart, at 4:19 and 4:32 and on the first, Datsyuk's assist gives him 700 career points.  It has been quite a night and we've only played 25 minutes of a 60-minute game...

8:46 Did I mention I'm picking the 3 Stars of tonight's hockey game?  I'm thinking of filling in 3 names right now (Datsyuk and Bertuzzi seem safe enough choices) and calling it a night.  This is one of those games where the Wings are just sick.

8:57 Time to Feel Old (Part 3):  I was looking at the Sabres bench and standing there behind it is a familiar face but I can't quite place it.  I looked at the Game Notes to see who the Buffalo assistants are, and there is the name Kevyn Adams and, yes, I remember him and not just because of the odd way his parents spelled his first name.  I had Kevyn on my team in Grand Rapids back in 1996-97 when he was a baby-faced 22-year-old kid out Miami of Ohio. He played ten years or so in the NHL and his back in the NHL this year as an assistant to Lindy Ruff, the guy who has been coach of the Sabres since 1997, which makes him the longest-tenured coach in the NHL and the third-longest tenured of any coach in any major professional sport, so there.  Ruff must feel like he's coached the Sabres 14 years this night alone, as Detroit continues to lead 5-0 with just over 3 mins left in the second.

9:07  The second period is over, and I really don't know what to say.  The Wings have been overwhelming in this game.  Twenty minutes to go before they set the new team record for home wins in a row.  Incredibly, shots are 19 Detroit, 18 Buffalo.  Incredibly....AFTER TWO: DETROIT 5, BUFFALO 0.

9:46 They are going to be coming for the 3 Stars any minute now, so here you go--you get to know before anybody else.  #3 Jimmy Howard (this will be a good pick if he gets the shutout, an ok pick if he doesn't).  #2 Todd Bertuzzi: A highlight reel goal and a couple of assists.  #1 Pavel Datsyuk: Hits the 700-point mark with a couple of the prettiest helpers you will ever see.  And, with that it is off to The Room for post-game fun and commentary.  Until next time, North America...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let's Watch the Red Wings and the Blackhawks!

It's a quarter after 12 and it feels funny to be up here in the Joe Louis Arena pressbox at this time of day but the schedule is what the schedule is and we've got the Blackhawks in here this afternoon with a chance to see history, sort of.

The Wings today look for their 14th consecutive win at home, which, if they can do it, would tie the franchise record.  But it would, in my view, have to come with an asterisk.  The record Detroit is trying to equal this afternoon was set in 1965, when the Wings won every game they played at Olympia Stadium from January 21 through March 25.  Here, the night before last, Detroit beat Phoenix 3-2 in a shootout to extend their home win streak to 13.  The thing is, had that game been played in 1965, it would have ended in a 2-2 tie as there was no overtime, no shootout back in those days.  In other words, if the rules were the same today as they were four decades ago, Detroit would no longer be working an active win streak today, they would be taking a 13-game unbeaten streak into the contest.  A slight difference to be sure, but still a difference worth noting.

Can you explain this to me?  How can the Wings--or any team for that matter--be, as Detroit is right now, 16-2-1 (.868) at home and at the same time be 11-13-0 (.458) on the road?  That's the record for Detroit though as we move to within a few minutes of faceoff.

We are just barely into the second half of the season (today's is game 44 of 82 for Detroit).  We are then, in other words, getting deep into the season.  Which makes this highly unusual: Detroit is only 4 points out of first place while at the same time they are only 5 points out of 8th.  9 points are all that separate the top 8 in the West. That's remarkable.  And it means that no team, not Detroit, not anybody, can afford even a little slump over the course of the final 3 months.  You could do something like lose 3 or 4 in a row and find that it winds up costing you a playoff spot.

The teams are hitting the ice.  We'll have the National Anthem and then the puck will drop.  We'll be here to keep you updated...

12:47  We've played almost 6 mins and nothing noteworthy has happened yet.  This is the 3rd of 6 regular season meetings between these teams, the first here in Detroit.  The Wings are 1-1-0 against Chicago, the Blackhawks are 1-0-1 against Detroit.  Detroit lost 3-2 the night before New Years Eve in Chicago and beat the Blackhawks there a week ago tomorrow 3-2, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the first five minutes of the game to win in overtime 3-2.  Chicago leads the Central division with 57 points, Detroit is third with 55.  As we said earlier, the race this year looks like it will be close all the way.  With that in mind, we note that Chicago will be here in Detroit for the last game of the season onn April 7.

12:52  Chicago goalie Corey Crawford just stopped Tomas Hollmstrom on a breakaway and then got lucky when the rebound hopped over the stick of Detroit's Cory Emmerton with the open net yawning.  Detroit has outshot Chicago 13-1 here mid-way through the first.

1:02 The Wings are on the board on Tomas Holmstrom's power-play redirect of an Ian White shot at 12:26. Pavel Datsyuk also got an assist on the goal, which came on Detroit's 17th shot on goal today.  Chicago has been held to two shots on goal, so far.  Detroit is 19-7-1 (.722) when scoring first this season.

1:07 2-0, Detroit on a breakaway finish by Todd Bertuzzi (7).  Bertuzzi hopped off the Detroit bench, changing on the fly and Datsyuk, inside the Detroit line, hit him in stride with a 40-foot pass and Bertuzzi had a couple of steps on the all-of-a-sudden caught Blackhawks defense.  He went in and beat Crawford with a backhand high.  Datsyuk's assist was the only helper handed out on the goal.

1:14  It's hard to imagine that Detroit, or for that matter any team, could play a better period of hockey than the Wings just did in the first here.  They oushot Chicago 21-4 (I think the Blackhawks had only 2 legitimate scoring chances) and they lead 2-0.  AFTER ONE: DETROIT 2, CHICAGO 0.

1:26 Some housekeeping as we move into the second period.  An assist has been added to White on the Bertuzzi goal.  So, now White and Datsyuk each have a pair of assists this afternoon.  Should the Wings go on to win today, they and Chicago will each have 57 points, but Detroit would be ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings because it would have taken them fewer games to arrive at that point total than it had Chicago. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves...

1:30  This is the first game this season that it's really felt like a hockey game.  We have been blessed, BLESSED, I TELL YOU, by an abject lack of snow this winter.  That has changed these past couple of overnights and we woke up this morning to find flurries flying and an inch or so on the ground.  It was enough to make it look like winter and to make it drive like winter so we sort of inched our way downtown to the rink, slipping and sliding a little bit for the first time this season.  Which is okay, this is, after all, the winter game.  The second period has just begun...

1:42  Detroit leads the NHL with only 34 goals allowed at home this season (19 games).  The Wings have held their opponent to two goals or less in 15 of their 19 home games and are undefeated (14-0-1, .967) in those games.  We're almost 8 minutes into the second period this afternoon and it is still 2-0, Detroit.

1:55 Nicklas Lidstrom just made a mistake which happens so infrequently that it is post-worthy when it does.  He made a bad decision not to pinch, then went for the puck at center ice, got beat, and Chicago had an odd-man.  But, Jimmy Howard looked like the All-Star goalie he is, made two or three really big stops, and that was the end of it.  Moments later though, Howard misplayed a shoot-in trying to stop the puck behind his goal.  He deflected it right out in front, and since he was behind the goal there was nobody in front of the entwined enclosure to defend it against Chicago's Andrew Shaw who tucked it into the great big wide-open to make this a 2-1 hockey game, Detroit.

2:05 The second period is over and, except for that giveaway hiccup by Howard at 14:54, it was another good one for the Red Wings.  Unlike the first period though, they did not score and shots  (8-7, Detroit) were much more even in the middle 20 than they were in the first when it was 21-4 Detroit, in Shots on Goal.  The Game Notes tell us that the Wings are 18-1-1 (.925) when leading after two and that Chicago is 4-13-1 (.250) when trailing after two.  AFTER TWO: DETROIT 2, CHICAGO 1.

2:22  The third period begins.  Say, did you know there is football today?  How about that.  With any luck (and by luck I mean without any Auto Show traffic) I'll be home in time for the Saints-49ers game at 4:30.  I'll take New Orleans by about thirty as I saw what the Saints did to the Lions a week ago tonight and because I still can't see that San Francisco ballclub.  I didn't believe in them when the season began, I didn't believe in them when they beat Detroit, I didn't believe in them when they got the first-round bye, and I don't believe in them now.  I am, if nothing else, consistent.

2:26 Just over three into the third and Jimmy Howard is looking in the net behind him for the puck, but it is not there as he as made some sort of miracle save which was so good even he didn't know he had pulled it off.  The Blackhawks are storming the net here, getting a push just like you knew they would.  They've outshot the Wings 7-0 in the period and Detroit is hanging on.  You had to figure the Wings would have to withstand in this period.  Chicago is a good club, you know.  They won the Cup only the year before last and they don't just hand you the damn thing.  Shots are now 9-0, Chicago in the period, which is 5 minutes old.

2:40  This third period has really been moving along.  7:05 left and still 2-1, Detroit.  Chicago was really taking it to Detroit when Drew Miller got a double minor.  For whatever reason, going on the power play seemed to take Chicago off their game.  They had been doing better at even strength than they did a man to the good, although they did hit a goalpost during the power play.  Shots in the period: 15-2, Chicago.  It's looking like a nail-biter down the stretch and you know how this goes, I have to get downstairs to get post game interviews.  I will update this blog later.  Thanks for hanging out with us today!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thanks! (And Let's Watch the Red Wings and the Coyotes)

First off (and off topic) thanks to everyone for their kind words and congratulations regarding my daughter and her academic scholarship.  A full ride at a 4-year university with a Division I basketball program for academics?  Way to go, kiddo.  Way to go.  And again, thanks to everyone for their kind words.

The Red Wings, seeking their 13th straight win at home, are flat-out kicking the snot out of tonight's opponent, the woeful Phoenix Coyotes.  Which would mean more than it does if the Wings weren't actually losing the game.  Which they are, 1-0 as a moment ago Radim Vrbata rifled a wrister over the right (stick) shoulder of newly-minted Detroit All-Star goalie Jimmy Howard.  Other than that, the Wings have been all over 'em.

8pm:  For the record, as Detroit looks to extend the old home ice win streak tonight, we note that the Wings team record for Most Consecutive Home Wins is 14.  They accomplished this feat 46 years ago between January 21 and March 25, 1965.  The streak ended when Toronto beat the Wings at Olympia 4-0 in the regular season finale.  In a cruel irony, the Wings that season, after winning regular season championship, lost to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs (there were only two rounds in the playoffs back in those Original Six days, as you know) when the Blackhawks defeated them in game 7--in Detroit.  It was the only home-ice loss for the Wings in the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs and it was one too many.

Trivia: Who was the Wings leading scorer in that 1964-65 season?  (The answer later if I remember to post it...)

The period is over and I pissed off a couple of Coyotes.  I was a little mad at myself for getting caught in the mens room trying to beat the intermission run on the bathroom when the Wings tied the score 19:09--Valtteri Filppula, unassisted--and when I stepped out of the bathroom they were showing the replay and I blurted out (which is something, blurting, that I usually don't do) "Who the hell is #53?"  He was the Phoenix D-man who was standing there reaching halfheartedly (or half-some other body part) with his stick as Filppula fired.  I forgot that visiting players not dressed for the game sit in the section of the pressbox where I spoke up and one of them asked me, "Why, what do you think he did?"  I said, "I think he didn't block the shot."  Which he didn't.  He just stood there, looking terrible.  The player nodded at me but I think a couple of those guys were annoyed with me.  Add this to the fact that chances are good they were in foul humor to begin with what with the being healthy scratches and all, and now they are mad at me and thus I cannot, not matter how dire matters may be or may become, go back to the bathroom again until the game is over and they have left.  I'm going to cut back on the Diet Cokes (they don't work, anyway) and hope for a well-played, uh, efficient hockey game.  After One: Detroit 1, Phoenix 1.

I'm writing hurt tonight, I'll have you know.  All to keep you up to date with the latest info from here at the Joe Louis Sports Arena.  I decided that calling a high school game last night (Rochester United 3, Farmington Hills 2 for those of you who track these things), wasn't enough in the way of preparation for watching an actual NHL game, so I went out this afternoon and played some hockey myself.   It surprises some people that I still do that, but I do.  In fact, a while back somebody asked me if I was a retired person and I laughed and thought to myself, come on out to the Oak Park Ice Arena some Tuesday or Thursday and I'll show you how retired I am..."  Anyway, today, in addition to the usual office workers, policemen and firefighters with whom I play, some ringer who I was later told played pro in the NY Rangers system either in the American or East Coast Leagues, who knows, ripped a shot right from inside the rim of the circle to my left, right off my funny bone.  I mean, it was a blast.  I mentioned the guy played pro, didn't I?  Those guys can really bring it.  And he did.  I was pleased to have made the save (I forgot to mention that I'm a goalie, didn't I?) for about a nano-second before the pain came and I spent the rest of the game just trying to hold onto my goalie stick without much of any feeling at all in my hand since my entire arm went numb.  Right now, my elbow looks like a plum has been surgically implanted just under the skin.   It wasn't a league game or something; just a little drop-in. Why didn't I just let it go in?  Those words, "Why didn't you just let it go in?" are the best hockey advice I ever got.  I was showing the Red Wings trainer a bruise I gotten from some other slapshot in some other time and he was so impressed he called on some of the Wings themselves to join me in the Medical Room to inspect the damage.  It was nasty. I'd gone into the butterfly position (down on the ice, pads spread as wide as you can) and the shot hit me on the inside of my thigh and the resulting contusion had to be a foot and a half in diameter.  Mike Vernon, the Wings goalie at the time, looked at it, then he looked at me and said oh-so-matter-of-factly, "Why didn't you just let it go in?"

As I reminisce, the second period has concluded.  There was no scoring, although Cory Emmerton hit the post which flat on the ice which I am sure will be a highlight as it was The Best Play I've Seen Not Resulting in a Goal in weeks, and so it is still tied here after 40.  After Two: Detroit 1, Phoenix 1.

An hour after it was scored, they have added an assist on the Detroit goal by Filppula.  They gave it to Ian White.  I said, "May I have an assist, too?  It would be my first NHL point."  Hey, you at least have to ask!

9:25: I'd better give you the answer to Tonight's Trivia Challenge (who led the Wings in scoring the year they set a team record which still stands with 14 straight wins at home) pretty quick since it now appears that the Wings are going to screw this thing up, lose and see their 12-game home win streak end as Taylor Pyatt has just scored to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 3:02 of this here third period.  So, here you go:  Norm Ullman with 83 points.  Bonus points if you know that his 42 goals led that NHL in '64-'65.  More than Bobby Hull or Jean Beliveau or Gordie Howe or any of them.

9:36 Johan Franzen, in the greatest moment in hockey since Henderson scored to beat the Soviets in '72, has just scored to tie the game 2-2 at 10:03.  Goose bumps are everywhere as we move into the last half of the last period of the epic battle which rages on the pure white ice below.  Hey, I'm just trying to capture the flavor of the thing.

9:45 Well, you know how this goes.  I have to shut this thing down now and get to the room for post game comments, such that they are or may be.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Let's Watch the Lions and the Saints!

For all of you karma fans out there, the last time the Lions won a road playoff game was December 22, 1957--a 34-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers at Kezar Stadium. Detroit trailed 27-7 in the 3rd and their 20-point comeback was the biggest in NFL playoff history at the time. The Lions won the NFL Championship game a week later. This has been the year of the comeback for the Lions, has it not? Get ready for kick in New Orleans tonight with a look at this Lions Classic!

This has to be the greatest QB matchup in playoff history, doesn't it?  Any other one in which the QB's combined to throw for 10,514 yards and 87 TDs in the regular season?  Don't think so...

Remember last Sunday how everybody said they wouldn't be able to throw the ball at Green Bay because of the high winds and all we would up with was the HIGHEST PASSING YARDAGE game in NFL HISTORY? That's what I think of predictions...

8:20 Lions go 80 in 8 to lead 7-0, 4:02 in.  TD is 10y Matthew Stafford pass to Will Heller as Stafford is 5/6 for 70y on drive.  Big plays were 22y pass to Calvin Johnson on second play of game and 15y pass to Titus Young on 3rd and 7 after Lions got one of those dumb Too Many Men in the Huddle penalties.  Oddity: Lions leading rusher right now is Young (8y

Saints were cruising right down the field, but they fumbled inside the Detroit 20 and the Lions get it back and that is exactly how you pull off an upset.  New Orleans had driven from own 19 to Det 18 in only 5 plays when Marques Colston fumbled and Detroit's Justin Durant recovered.  7-0, Det midway through the first.  It would be huge if the Lions could get points off the TO and put the Saints in a hole early.  A bigger hole, that is.

OT,  but as I watch the Wings out of the corner of my eye, does anyone have a reason for them being 15-2-1 (.861) at home and 10-11-0 (.477) on the road?  Neither do I.  Wings down 3-2 in Toronto late second, but were down 0-3 when period began.  Lions drive to midfield, punt.  Still up 7-0 in New Orleans...

8:45 QTR ends as Saints drive from their own 11 to the Det 11 in 8 plays.  The biggest play was an 11y Pierre Thomas screen pass that was good for 11 and and first.  He totally juked Lions CB Eric Wright.  S Louis Delmas was the fakeout victim on a 31y Thomas run moments later.  7-0 Det, going second.

8:50 Tie game.  Saints go 89 in 11 (surprisingly enough, 56 of the 89 yards on the drive came on the ground) and tie Lions 7-7 just :59 into second quarter.

9:00 The drive is 87 in 9 and the Lions lead again on 13y Stafford to Johnson TD toss.  Up and down the field they go with 9:11 left in the half!  Det 14, NO 7.  Seven of the nine plays in the drive were passes with Stafford 6/7 for 73 yards.

OT (again) The Wings have just come back from 0-3 down to tie Leafs 3-3 in Toronto in 3rd with 15:30 left in reg.

9:10 Anybody else wondering why they blew the play dead on that Brees fumble?  Because it looked to me like the Lions might have scored on the play, for crying out loud.

An official, thinking the play was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble, blew his whistle and ended the play in which Brees fumbled.  That makes this the second week in a row in which incompetent officialing (not a word, btw but I've decided to write the story the way they call the game) has cost Detroit aTD.

9:29 That was no catch, right? Didn't the ball juggle around a bit when he hit. Isn't that "Process of the Catch" stuff?.

9:36 Good first half.  Real good.  Better than I expected to be honest with you as I thought if GB's second stringer could light up the Lions Brees just might be able to do the same.  But, Stafford (180) has more pass y in half than Brees (174).  Det 14, NO 10 at the half.  Time to break for all-important halftime snackage.  Wish I was at Ford Field since they always have something nice for us at halftime but then again, I would be able to be in a t-shirt like I am now.  Red Wings lose 4-3 in Tor, fall to 10-12 on the road.

9:52 Brees finally hits a big one, a 41y TD pass as Saints go 78 in 4 to take 17-14 lead 1:51 into 3rd.  Can Stafford answer?

10:02 Uh, not a first down there on that third and long from the NO 7....  Refs get the Lions again.

10:08 Anybody remember the Lions opener at GB about 15 years ago when Scott Mitchell lept and thrust the football forward to get a first down on Dets first possession of the season and had the ball swatted out of his hands and returned for a Packer TD?  Could have happened to Brees right there, but it's a NO first down instead.

10:10 Saints TD drive is 92 in 13 with the bad spot on the 3rd and 7 from the 7 and the Brees 4th-and-inches reach-across the big plays and now the Lions, trailing 24-14 with 4:03 left in 3rd, have to respond.

10:25 For those of you scoring at home, that is first rush TD by Stafford this season.  Det TD drive is 80 in 8.  Stafford 4/6 for 79 on the drive.  Det back in game, down 24-21 with 0:26 left in third.

NO is 7-10 on 3rd down but that's misleading because on two of the misses they came back to convert on 4th down (2-2 on 4th down converts) and on the other they kicked that field goal on last play of first half.

10:43  If you can't get 'em off the field, eventually--by definition--they score.  Darren Sproles runs it in from 17 to complete a 14 play, 80y Saints drive.  Now it's 31-21, NO and now there's 9:53, that's all, left.

10:48 A pick.  Damn.  A pick.  Stafford, having a typically great night until this very moment, puts it up for grabs and it's intercepted and it's the first TO by DET tonight and it's a killer.  Unless the defense can get 'em off the field and off the field in a hurry.  Under nine to play.

10:52 Good night, everybody.  Brees ends it with a 56y pass to Robert Meachum and it's 38-21 ballgame with 7:29 left and I don't think the Lions can make the deficit up in that amount of time.  Brees has thrown for 425 tonight and 3 TDs..

10:29  Is anybody else streaming this game?  Who is that singing that annoying "I want to be a billionaire song" and can you make her stop?

10:59 Way to not give up.  Stafford now at 367 pass y and 3 TD as he hits Johnson in the end zone to make it 38-28, Saints with 4:40 left.  Kick or on-side kick?

11:08  616 yards of offense for NO is a new NFL postseason record and they didn't have to punt once.  Not once.  That's the story, isn't it?  4 plays is all it takes them to put it in the end zone again after the failed on-sides kick.  45-28 with 3:13 to play.

11:11 Correction: NFL website says NO had 618y of offense after that last TD, not the 616 I said.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may have cause.  A desperate Stafford is picked again and the Death Watch is underway.

11:20 I am not, by rule (No Cheering in the Press Box), allowed to root for the Lions, but I feel badly for the guys and for the members of the staff who helped me so much in covering them this year.  I remember being on the sidelines at RFK the night they got blown out in the '92 NFC title game and a remember being sad for the players then, too. I hope they will quickly realize that they had one hell of a fine year.  And wait until you get a load of that LeShoure kid out of Illinois next season.  Detroit's leading rusher had 28 yards tonight.  That won't happen with him in the lineup. Final: New Orleans 45, Detroit 28.  Thanks for reading!